I just finished "Shakespeare Wrote for Money," Nick Hornby's third collection of "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns for the Believer. As you know, Hornby's column is a hilarious, free-wheeling, monthly run-down of his thoughts on the books he's been reading. The columns are so great because they make you think, for a few minutes anyway, that you have a mind like Nick Hornby's.
Then, in the middle of this enjoyable third volume of book chats, I realized Hornby has been doing something profound. There is Hornby's flight from one interest to the next, and his ravenous consumption of printed matter along the way. That would be vicarious enoyment enough. But there is also this: Hornby always writes about what is most nagging him about what he is reading. His essays are so good because they deal with urgent questions. They may be the urgent questions of a self-described simple North London music buff and Arsenal fan, but then whose urgent questions would be any more important to investigate?
Taking a cue from Hornby, then, I will relate the burning question I have about Hornby's Believer columns: Why has he stopped writing them? I'm not just crushed, I'm also curious. I want to know why I can't have more Nick Hornby Believer columns. Alas, "Shakespeare Wrote for Money" does not say.
It can't be that it's time to move on, or that Hornby just needs to take a break. Has Hornby stopped reading books? Has he stopped thinking about them?
There are clues in this third volume of an untold story. There are gaps during which the column, mysteriously, doesn't get written. During one, Hornby claims to have been on sabbatical. Later he claims to have been suspended for a month for admitting he might not finish a Lawrence Wechsler book. Hornby is too sly for these explanations to be correct. Something is afoot, as the English say.
Did the Believer's ban on negative reviews finally prove too much for Hornby? Is he moving on to an all-consuming project? If so, what is it? Maybe he simply realized that his work was done?
Odds are we'll never know, and so all we can do is mourn the loss of the best book review column going, and thank Nick Hornby for a great run.
But if any insiders want to spill the beans, tips can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.